Michael William Hawley



Michael William Hawley, 77, of Hendersonville, North Carolina, formerly of Spruce Pine, North Carolina, and Lumberton, North Carolina, took his last breath on Saturday, August 21, 2021. This is not a conventional obituary because Mike Hawley did not lead a conventional life.


Mike was born on October 3, 1943, to Col. John N. Hawley and Wilma “Willie” Hawley. He was born in Columbus, Ohio into an Air Force family during World War II. He was the oldest of three wild boys and spent his early childhood in Bermuda, Texas, and North Platte, Nebraska; his early adolescence in Southern Pines, North Carolina, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Taiwan; and graduated from Fayetteville High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His outgoing personality and love of adventure allowed him to run into friends in high school who taught him how to skydive as a hobby. They’d pack their own parachutes and pay off-duty pilots to take them up on jumps on the weekend. His love of adventure would become a lifelong pursuit.


He attended Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, North Carolina, but preferred to do most of his learning outside the classroom. He spent his early adulthood working in sales, as an engineer on Amtrak’s Auto Train, and for the National Enquirer. His practical mindset, keen observational skills, common sense, and love of working with people eventually led him to work as a heavy equipment operator for most of his adult working life with various construction companies in the Washington D.C. area. After moving back to eastern North Carolina to help take care of his mother, he couldn’t find much construction work, so he started a sandwich truck which he drove around to local car shops and dealerships. He entertained those on his stops with stories while selling breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and through talking with and questioning the auto mechanics he encountered, he learned how to rebuild an engine on an old pick-up truck of his (all in the era before YouTube tutorials existed, and before food trucks were trendy). His ability to connect with people and learn practical skills was a strength he used throughout life.


He was a proud, devoted father to his only daughter and shared his love of the outdoors, camping, cooking, surf fishing, and swimming with her. He never had much money but taught his daughter one of the most important lessons in life: you don’t need a lot of money to have fun. He took her to air shows and taught her about her grandfather’s years as an Air Force and Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilot; to Chinese New Year parades to share his knowledge of Asian culture and his years in Taiwan; to St. Patrick’s Day parades to teach her about their shared “fighting Irish” blood; to horse races to teach her about horses, long odds, and suspense; camping to teach her an appreciation of the importance of wild spaces; and to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to share his love of surf fishing, simple joys like body surfing, and his knowledge of history with stories of pirates like Black Beard and their exploits along the Atlantic Coast. His sense of humor proved useful as a parent during his daughter’s teenage years. When he worried his daughter might be in danger of taking herself too seriously, he would jokingly yell, “she’s shoplifting!” while walking out of stores with her, knowing it would help her overcome any self-consciousness, in-part through a good laugh. His wit was sharp, his one-liners were endlessly creative, and he never missed a beat to crack a joke, often yelling, “drive reckless!” when parting ways.


He was a character who wanted to make everyone around him comfortable and could easily pass time telling you some of the wildest and funniest stories you’ve ever heard. When not seeking his own life experiences from which he’d later share his own personal stories, he loved learning about world and U.S. history and enjoyed entertaining those around him with stories of famous characters of years past and he always wove in lessons we all could learn from history.


He was not a saint and would be the first to tell you he had no idea how he got out of trouble so many times but those who knew him knew he wanted to do right by those who loved him. His life was not always easy, but he never missed an opportunity to try and see the sunny side of things, and when the sunny side wasn’t there, to find some way to learn from the set-back. He suffered a stroke in 2014 and it was not clear if he would ever walk again. Through grit, determination, and an indomitable spirit, he did. In 2018, just a few months before his daughter was to be married, he suffered from severe heart trouble, and it was discovered he had massive blockages in his heart. He had quintuple bypass surgery and his surgeon noted how remarkable it was that he survived surgery considering how rough of a shape his heart was in. Just 11 weeks out from open-heart surgery, he walked his daughter down the aisle. He wasted no time dwelling on hardships and took pride in his resilience and ability to overcome every hurdle life threw his way with some new-found wisdom and strength.


He leaves behind a brother, Richard G. Hawley of Wallburg, North Carolina; a daughter, Brie Hawley Blackley, son in law David J. Blackley, and two grandsons of Morgantown, West Virginia; and former wives Barbara (Hawley) Bortz of Burke, Virginia, and Gwen Hefner Hawley of Glassboro, New Jersey.


He was preceded in death by his brother, John P. Hawley, and his parents Col. John N. Hawley USAF and Wilma Immogean “Willi” Hawley.


His stories and ability to relate to others made many around him feel like he was their best friend. He never met someone he couldn’t talk with and always tried to see the humor in all of life’s absurdities. He exemplified how to take joy in life’s simple joys and to seek big adventures. If you knew Mike Hawley, please leave some love or fun stories here. He hated funerals (as he often wondered, if life is so short, why would you want to spend any of it somber and dressed in black?), so instead we will be celebrating his life, though those details are yet to be worked out. Please leave a note below if you would like to be included in a celebration of his life and his family will reach out to you once details are decided of when and where a celebration will be held.


In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to North Carolina State Parks  and/or the Virginia Association for Parks.




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